EcoEd: innovation in training, outreach and engagement leveraging Australia’s EcoScience infrastructures

Dr Chantal Huijbers1, Hamish Holewa2, Sarah Richmond3, Lee Belbin4, Hannah Scott5, Dr Nikki Thurgate6

Biodiversity & Climate Change Virtual Laboratory, eResearch Services, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia,

2 Biodiversity & Climate Change Virtual Laboratory, eResearch Services, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia,

3 Biodiversity & Climate Change Virtual Laboratory, eResearch Services, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia

4 Atlas of Living Australia, Canberra, Australia,

5 Atlas of Living Australia, Canberra, Australia,

6 Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia,


Models play a critical role in synthesising our understanding of the natural world and making forward projections into novel conditions. While they are central to ecological forecasting, models remain inaccessible to most ecologists, in large part due to the informatics challenges of managing the flows of information in and out of such models. In Australia, a suite of research infrastructures is supported by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), including the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), the Terrestrial Ecoystem Research Network (TERN) and the National eResearch Collaboration, Tools and Resources project (NeCTAR) through which the development of the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory (BCCVL) was funded. While each of these infrastructures provides unique features to ecoscience researchers, it is recognized that integration and collaboration across facilities is essential to reduce complexity and maximise research outcomes.

To provide users with a holistic approach to environmental spatial data discovery and analysis, ALA, BCCVL and TERN have joined forces to deliver an exciting and innovative new training program. This program, called EcoEd, provides cohesive training and skill development to university lecturers and researchers enabling them to combine theoretical concepts with real-world applications developed by the three facilities into undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum. The EcoEd program builds on the data portals, methods and tools developed by ALA, BCCVL and TERN in providing the training required to further incorporate NCRIS-developed expertise and capabilities into Australia’s higher education and research sector. In doing so EcoEd is increasing the capacity of Australia’s research community to advance science and deliver outcomes that benefit the nation and underpin the sustainable use of our ecosystems. Moreover, it is enabling first-rate science education in Australia by supporting and nurturing our future scientists.

In this presentation, we will demonstrate how we developed the EcoEd program, and present the outcomes of the pilot training sessions in which the first round of EcoEd Champions absorbed ready-to-use lecture and workshop modules, along with tools and knowledge on how to use the ALA, BCCVL and TERN platforms to explore species data and their relationships with their environment. These champions will now be incorporating these in their work and re-delivering the education materials in their own institutions. We will also discuss our learnings and objectives for future development of this program, which will be of interest not only to people working in the EcoScience domain, but to anyone aspiring to run training programs.


Chantal Huijbers is the Training and Scientific Support Officer for the Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Lab (BCCVL) at Griffith University. Her work includes helping build a community and skills base around the Nectar-funded BCCVL in collaboration with other NCRIS infrastructures such as ALA and TERN. Chantal has a research background in ecology, and uses this to bridge the gap between the scientific experts and the developers of the BCCVL. As part of her role she developed an Online Open Course in Species Distribution Modelling and other workshop and user support material to provide scientific support for users of the virtual lab.

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